In SKINAMARINK, a young boy and girl wake up in the middle of the night to discover their father is missing and the house is changing. Written and directed by Kyle Edward Ball, the film relies on a highly distinct style to achieve its atmosphere of dread. I appreciated the concept and ambition far more than the overall result.
The year, we’re told, is 1995, and four-year-old Kevin fell down the stairs and hurt his head. His older sister Kaylee tells Dad that he was sleepwalking. The kids wake up again later to discover Dad is missing, and the windows and doors are disappearing. Something is in the house, and it is changing everything.
Shot at Ball’s childhood house in Edmonton, Alberta, the movie makes style choices that immediately set it apart from pretty much any other movie I’ve seen. The camera footage is grainy, usually only people’s feet are in frame, there are long shots of ceilings and inanimate objects, and sometimes the audio, often garbled and unintelligible, is subtitled and sometimes it isn’t. There is a narrative, but it’s sparse, with tiny bits of plot appearing like islands in a sea of mood and tension. Though the film clearly isn’t found footage, it has that voyeuristic, maybe-it’s-real feel to it. The overall effect is like being in a childhood nightmare.
At my house, I had a rule with my kids, which was when it came to new foods, you don’t have to eat it but you have to try it. I would recommend you do the same with SKINAMARINK, as I believe it’s the kind of thing you love or don’t but have to agree is remarkable for its ambition and style. Overall, it simply didn’t work for me. It was too hard for me to figure out what was going on without making me care enough to invest, the long sequences between morsels of plot tapped out my patience, and most critically, as a result, I sympathized with the children but didn’t empathize. In the end, I watched the film with my head but not my gut and heart. SKINAMARINK is a feeling more than anything else, and I didn’t have it.
But again, try it, you might like it. It’s certainly unique, and I can imagine if it does grab you, it’ll be quite an experience.